Overnight health care: White House plans to scale back coronavirus task force

Overnight health care: White House plans to scale back coronavirus task force
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Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 MORE is ready to start winding down his coronavirus task force. The former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority filed a whistleblower complaint on the U.S. COVID-19 response and Senate Republicans aren't ready to move forward on the next coronavirus relief bill.

We'll start at the White House: 



White House plans to scale back coronavirus task force

Despite the ongoing deaths, hospitalizations and high numbers of cases across the country, the White House is preparing to wind down its coronavirus task force. 

Vice President Pence's office told reporters at a limited briefing that his plan is to scale back the task force's role by Memorial Day. 

Members are likely to return to their respective departments and manage the coronavirus response from there. President Trump wants to move on, and focus on reopening the economy.

"I think we're having conversations about that and about what the proper time is for the task force to complete its work and for the ongoing efforts to take place on an agency-by-agency level," Pence said at the briefing. "And we've already begun to talk about a transition plan with FEMA," he added, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"It really is all a reflection of the tremendous progress we've made as a country."


White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany sought to address some initial criticism of the decision, saying it was false to suggest Trump would no longer involve medical experts as he looks toward reopening the economy.

Read more here

More from the White House: Trump won't allow Fauci to testify before House because it's 'a bunch of Trump haters'


Ousted vaccine chief says administration put politics over science

The Trump administration's former vaccine chief warned top officials about a shortage of critical resources and supplies for fighting the coronavirus as early as January, but the administration took no action, according to a whistleblower complaint.

Rick Bright, the former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, alleges that his efforts to "prioritize science and safety over political expediency" rankled political leaders across the administration and directly resulted in his ouster.

Bright says he pressed the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) about the threat of the virus and the urgent need to act, but "encountered indifference which then developed into hostility from HHS leadership."

Unproven drugs: One of the more explosive details in the report is Bright's allegation that he was pressured by top officials at HHS to promote the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine. Bright said he opposed the broad use of those drugs because they lacked scientific merit, even though the administration promoted them to fight the coronavirus and demanded that New York and New Jersey be “flooded” with the drugs.

What's next: Bright's attorneys said he will be testifying in Congress next week, at a hearing that will be called by Rep. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: GoDaddy CEO Aman Bhutani says DC policymakers need to do more to support ventures and 'solo-preneurs'; Federal unemployment benefits expire as coronavirus deal-making deadlocks Democrats fear US already lost COVID-19 battle Why drug costs for older Americans should be capped in pandemic's wake MORE (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee subpanel on Health. 

Read more here.


Openings may put black workers at disproportionate COVID-19 risk

African Americans have been hit disproportionately by COVID-19, a trend likely to continue or even rise as states begin to reopen for business.


Black Americans are more likely than their white counterparts to work in the service industries that have been shuttered for the past several weeks, and they are also more likely to suffer from some health conditions that make people vulnerable to the novel coronavirus.

Advocates say black workers may also feel they have little choice but to return to work given their economic situations.

“The reality is people who will continue to get COVID are low-wage workers, people of color, who feel they must go back to work and don’t have the flexibility to stay at home,” said Jocelyn Frye, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

She said such workers are less likely to have health insurance and paid leave to support them when they get sick. 

“It exacerbates a problem we’re still trying to figure out. It’s irresponsible, and it suggests a lack of meaningful concern about the disproportionate impacts of reopening when those rates are rising and not falling,” Frye said.

Read more here.



Health chairman warns Senate could become 'coronavirus spreading machine' without testing

While Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellProfessional sports players associations come out against coronavirus liability protections Democratic leaders report 'some progress' in talks with White House Top GOP senator urges agencies to protect renters, banks amid coronavirus aid negotiations MORE (R-Ky.) and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHillicon Valley: Trump backs potential Microsoft, TikTok deal, sets September deadline | House Republicans request classified TikTok briefing | Facebook labels manipulated Pelosi video Trump says he's considering executive action to suspend evictions, payroll tax Trump won't say if he disagrees with Birx that virus is widespread MORE (D-Calif.) have pushed back on White House offers of tests for lawmakers, Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderChamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection Pelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive Senate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag MORE says it is crucial senators are tested before they return home. 

“We’re doubling the amount of testing up to two million a week, there ought to be enough tests to test 535 members of Congress who come to one of the nation’s coronavirus hot spots before they go back home around the country and infect people in their districts,” the Tennessee Republican said.

“Members of Congress would represent sort of a virus-spreading machine, coming in here to a coronavirus hot spot and then going home,” he warned.

Alexander, who has taken the lead for GOP senators on assessing the deployment of tests, said McConnell “knows my thoughts.”

Another senator who attended Tuesday's Senate Republican lunch — the first held in more than six weeks — said Alexander raised his concerns at the meeting.

Read more here



Models under scrutiny as coronavirus gets more politicized

Models that estimate the rapid spread or quick extinction of the coronavirus have become the latest partisan flashpoint in a politicized pandemic that has Americans searching for answers — and finding sharply contrasting information.

Conservatives contend that they are exaggerating the threat posed by the pandemic, spurring an economic catastrophe that will be worse than the virus itself. Those on the left see an administration downplaying the health risk and cherry-picking models that are hopelessly optimistic.

Not helpful: The model most widely touted by the White House, produced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, has proven itself so deeply incorrect that it has drawn criticism even from fellow statisticians at the school. That model has managed to be at once far too pessimistic, projecting that some states would need 10 or 20 times as much hospital capacity than they actually needed, and too optimistic, showing the number of cases and deaths plunging at an unrealistic rate.

Read more here.


Related: Cuomo: Death estimates rising because states are reopening


Pfizer begins human trials of potential coronavirus vaccine

Pfizer and the German company BioNTech announced Tuesday that they have begun human trials of a potential coronavirus vaccine. 

The first stage of the trial will involve up to 360 people, testing factors including whether the vaccine is safe and what the right dosage level is. 

Pfizer and BioNTech are actually testing four vaccine candidates at the same time, all different versions of what is known as an mRNA vaccine. The companies hope testing all four vaccines will allow the process to move faster by seeing which one works the best. 

Read more here.


What we’re reading:

Barr urges Trump administration to back off call to fully strike down ObamaCare (CNN.com

Trump hits the road as coronavirus response becomes re-election pitch (NBC News)

Kushner coronavirus effort said to be hampered by inexperienced volunteers (Washington Post

With Crispr, a Possible Quick Test for the Coronavirus (New York Times)


State by state: 

Illinois coronavirus updates: Pritzker reveals reopening plan, state sees deadliest day (NBC 5)

Texas gov. admits dangers of reopening state on private call with lawmakers (Daily Beast)

Barbershop in Washington state reopens in defiance of coronavirus order, customers line up (NBC


Op-eds in The Hill:

Coronavirus vaccines, drugs are just a Band-Aid approach to zoonotic viruses 

Do fear and the media help to make a horrible pandemic worse?

The US should follow Sweden's approach to combating COVID-19